Melbourne Storm Rugby” (CC BY 2.0) by markehr After 19 matches, Melbourne are keeping pace with the Cronulla Sharks at the top of the National Rugby League standings. In fact, the Storm have won 12 of their last 13 fixtures and it is only a matter of time before they overtake the Sharks at the summit of the table. With their round 26 clash fast approaching, it is crucial for Melbourne to climb above Cronulla as the postseason draws nearer. Craig Bellamy’s men are by far and away the greatest team in the league on paper but rugby matches aren’t won or lost on paper. Full-back Billy Slater is widely regarded as one of the very best players in the NRL and he will play a key role for the Storm at the business end of the season. ‘ Billy the Kid’ has been an integral member of the Melbourne outfit since 2003 and the franchise owes him another major title before he hangs up his boots, especially after his serious injury issues this season. As of August 2nd, you can back Melbourne at 9/4 to win the NRL title and punters can click here for the latest NRL markets in William Hill. Whilst Slater is obviously a major figure for the Storm, he isn’t the only top talent in the squad. Hooker Cameron Smith has been a pivotal star for Melbourne and his native Australia for well over a decade and it would be unfair to dismiss or ignore his performances on the pitch. If they play at their very best, it is hard to imagine the Storm throwing this opportunity away; they are looking far too strong. Their recent victory over the North Queensland Cowboys sent out a major statement as the hosts lost their first match of the season on home soil. Yes, they were missing influential half-back Johnathan Thurston but Melbourne’s strong defensive display showed that they are capable of showing their mettle when it matters most.The Storm are on the verge of securing one of the two playoff places that will guarantee home advantage in the postseason. Melbourne will be desperate to topple Cronulla to send out an early marker ahead of the playoffs but that isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. Right now, the Storm are performing better than any other side in the NRL and Bellamy’s men will be quietly confident of achieving their ultimate goal of silverware. If it comes down to it, a straight-up dogfight between Melbourne and Cronulla on the final day of the regular season could determine who gets the slightly easier draw in the race for the Grand Final. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Storm are the more consistent outfit but Bellamy will be wary of Cronulla’s threat. On their day, they may be the only team that can offer a genuine challenge to Melbourne’s dominance in the NRL. Melbourne are within touching distance of reaching the playoffs and from there, they stand a great chance of notching another major success. If nothing else, they should do it for Billy Slater – their long time legend. The Storm are the most complete side in the NRL and it looks like they could go all the way barring an impressive comeback from the Cronulla Sharks.]]>
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